US Helsinki Commission
chair today introduced a landmark bill that will deny US visas to senior members of the Azerbaijani government.
“We recognize that there are important national security and economic ties that exist between our two countries, but the United States can no longer remain blind to the appalling human rights violations that are taking place in Azerbaijan,” said Chairman Chris Smith, the US Representative for New Jersey’s 4
congressional district. “Journalists and activists are routinely arrested and imprisoned; opposition politicians are in jail and elections are not free and fair; human rights lawyers have been harassed and disbarred; and religious freedom is under attack. The Azerbaijan Democracy Act demonstrates that the United States takes human rights and fundamental freedoms seriously, and that we will not compromise when faced by a government that represses the political opposition, the media, and religious minorities.”
The bill, dubbed the Azerbaijan Democracy Act of 2015, also denies visas to those who derive significant financial benefit from business dealings with senior leadership, and members of the security or judicial branches in Azerbaijan.
Sanctions could be lifted when the Azerbaijani government shows substantial progress toward releasing political prisoners, ending its harassment of civil society, and holding free and fair elections, according to the press release published on the
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
“It is unacceptable that senior members of the Azerbaijani government are free to visit the United States while courageous women and men like investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, attorney Intigam Aliyev, opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov, and activist Anar Mammadli are locked away in prisons with inadequate access to legal or even medical assistance,” Smith said. “If they can pay the price for standing up for human rights, the least we can do is to stand with them.”
The full text of the bill can be accessed